Doug Mink, February 2004


I have not always had the same name and appearance.
Here's why:

Jessica Mink outside and inside, March 2014

I was a transgender person for as long as I can remember. Despite having been designated male at birth and living as a male person most of the time for my first 60 years, I have, for as long as I can remember, identified as a woman rather than as a man. After struggling with this disparity for most of my life, it became increasingly important to me during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

I spent a few years learning and thinking about possible futures, and in 2008, I started spending a lot of time out in the world as woman, including on trips across and out of the country. I didn't start transitioning to my friends in Boston's bicycle community and telling my colleagues at work in the late spring of 2011 when full transition and divorce were on the horizon. In the middle of that summer, the day after our first meeting with divorce lawyers, I crashed my bike and was hospitalized for a few days, causing some awkward but educational moments as my appearance and identification did not match. As soon as I was allowed back on my bike, I started leading rides as Jessica, including a 60-mile ride for my 60th birthday. Before the end of the year, I was separated and living full-time as myself, including at work. I have been fortunate to have an accepting circle of friends in my neighborhood, the bicycle, open space, and religious communities of metropolitan Boston, the astronomical community both where I work and world-wide, as well as a supportive family. At this point, at the beginning of 2017, my world in general considers me to be a woman, and that's how I identify and live.

In 2015, I started speaking more in public about my life. I've given short sermons at Unitarian-Universalist churches on "Finding My Place in the Universe" in West Roxbury and "Finding My Voice" in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

These older text interviews with Boston Bikes in 2012 and Pug-Velo in 2013 cover my bike interests pretty well.

I gave this interview to Wladimir Lyra and Stefano Meschiari of the American Astronomical Society Working Group on LGBTIQ Equality (WGLE) in April 2014 to tell the story of my transition in astronomy.

These posts in the Women in Astronomy blog lay out my thoughts on gender in my professional life:

    These two posts in the same blog discuss some obstacles and advantages which have happened along the way:
    • "Astronomy Without a PhD" (January 2016) and
    • "Astronomer Privilege" (June 2016),

    In early 2015, my friend Dorie Clark wrote a couple of useful articles (I'm in both) for the Harvard Business Review:

    In July 2015, Melanie Morris interviewed me for the Bay State Biking News at Somerville Community Access TV

    In August 2015, the American Psychological Association announced new Guidelines for Working With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.

    If you wish to learn more, the best online resource for understanding transgender issues I have found is Understanding Transgender at the web site of the National Center for Transgender Equality.

    It appears that gender identity is usually innate, even when it does not match our biological sex. That means that many trans* people might not *appear* any different than their biological sex (how a person's genes express in their physical appearance) would lead you to believe, while others may take hormones, have surgery, or simply change their wardrobe and appearance to match the gender which they feel themselves to be. Thus gender presentation or expression is a separate thing from gender identity, though it is often related.
    This useful graphic by Sam Killerman shows the various scales which can describe a person's position in this four-dimensional space, allowing two scales each, male and female, for a person's gender identity, gender expression, biological gender, and who they are attracted to.

    "Assigned Male", by Sophie LaBelle, is a great web comic about a young trans* woman who really knows who she is, no matter what the adults around her might think.

    Here and here are some pretty good answers to questions you might have about transgender people.

    Being able to finally be myself in the world is freeing me from constraints which have held me back--though some of my long-time friends may disagree--from committing more of myself to my friends, my work, and my causes. If you have any questions, feel free to email me.

    Now that you know, especially if you first met me as Jessica, please be careful about telling other people. Since I transitioned, I really, really do not like being referred to with male pronouns, especially by people I am just meeting. I'm public to those who know me, but prefer to just be a woman in the world. Here is a good list of reasons to not talk about it from a friend of mine.

    As a person who has tended to be more into books than real people, I've read about more than acted upon my transgender feelings over many years. Here are some books in my library which might help others understand my position.

    -Jessica Mink (2017-01-17)

Telescope Data Center MassPaths